If "standard of living" (we'll debate what that means later) is your thing, you might as well toss that acceptance letter from NYU School of Law into the garbage, and Fedex your deposit check to the University of Texas Law School tout de suite.
That's more or less the advice of The National Jurist, which ranked law schools according to the standard of living of their graduates. Weighing "median starting salaries, average debt payments, estimated federal and state taxes, and cost of living adjustments for the regions where graduates were employed," the study ranked 50 law schools.
Here are the top ten law schools for graduates' standard of living:
1. University of Texas
2. University of Georgia
3. Vanderbilt University
4. University of Virginia
5. Northwestern University
6. University of Chicago
7. University of North Carolina
8. University of Michigan
9. Washington University in St. Louis
10. Duke University
Graduates of UT "take home a net of $101,308 after debt and taxes, and modifying for cost of living adjustments," reports The National Jurist. "More than half of the schools in the study netted less than half of that amount, with six lower than $25,000."
Rock bottom on the list is NYU School of Law--my alma mater. Even though it's ranked sixth in the nation in U.S. News & World Report and sends truckloads of grads to Gotham's powerhouse firms, NYU grads are losers when it comes to living well.
"Cost of living adjustments had significant negative impact on schools in California and the Northeast, especially New York law schools," reports The National Jurist. (Columbia Law School, which was not on the list, presumably would also score low in this study.) And though the study didn't say where the graduates ended up working, my assumption is that most UT grads ended up in Texas, and most NYU grads stayed in New York.
Which brings me back to one of my favorite debates: How do you judge standard of living? By most normal measures, New Yorkers are seriously deprived. It's probably the only city where some big firm associates actually lived better in their undergraduate days.
Grimy streets, infernal subways, whopping taxes, and relentless competition--New York is a tough place to eke out a living. So why do we put up with all this? Are we masochists?
Honestly, there's no rational answer. But for me, it's hard imagining living anywhere else.